Dental Health in Seniors (Age 65 and over)

An article in National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that dental health in general has had significant improvements over the past several decades. About one-fourth of those aged 65 or older have not been to the dentist in the last 5 years. About half of those 65 and older have been to the dentist within the past year. Cost is the single biggest reason that seniors don't go for regular checkups and cleaning or for treatment of discomfort and pain.

What are the unique concerns for seniors in regards to dental health?

Seniors may experience tooth pain due to an exposed root or sensitive teeth. Older adults should use soft toothbrushes because damage can result from over-aggressive brushing.  Gums naturally recede as you age, exposing areas of the tooth that are not protected by enamel. These areas can be painful when consuming cold or hot foods and beverages. Even sensitivity to cold air can occur.

Physicians sometimes overlook the state of teeth or gums when investigating other health problems even though ongoing inflammation is known to contribute to disease in the heart and other organs.

Dry mouth is a very common in seniors, and may be caused by medications or certain medical disorders. Over time and when left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth.

Older people have a greater risk of periodontal disease because they have more wear and tear on their gums. If you have a family history of gum disease, the risk goes up. Medications can cause dry mouth, and the lack of saliva contributes to gum disease. A diet lacking proper amounts of calcium and vitamin C can contribute to gum disease also.

Please check with your dentist to determine how often you should visit for cleanings and preventive care. Be sure to mention any pain or sensitivity. Bring a list of all medications. Follow good oral hygiene.


The information presented here is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or dentist if you have any questions about your medical or dental care.